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Posts tagged ‘Sleep Schedule’

The Golden Rules of Sleep

Optimal Sleep for Optimal Living. According to Dr. James B. Mass if you want to be alert, dynamic, full of energy, in a good mood, productive, creative, healthy, have good concentration, a good memory, and good decision making skills then you need to get optimal sleep. Without the proper amount of sleep the body can’t function properly, while we sleep our bodies do an amazing amount of work. We need to make sure that we are getting enough sleep to ensure that our bodies will be at their best. Dr. James B. Mass gives us The Golden Rules of Sleep, four rules that seem simple and easy. But, with roughly 62% of Americans reporting that they experience sleep problems more than one night per week and another 70 million people suffering from insomnia, it’s harder to follow The Golden Rules than we may think.

  1. Get an Adequate Amount of Sleep Every Night.
    The amount of sleep needed each night differs from person to person, if you get tired or sleepy anytime throughout the day then you’re probably not getting enough sleep at night. At minimum the majority of people need to obtain at least 60 – 90 minutes more sleep a night than what they are getting now. A study by Dr. Roth at Henry Ford Hospital found that sleeping one hour longer boosted a person’s alertness by 35%, and that’s just one of many benefits of sleep!
  2. Establish a Regular Sleep Schedule.
    A regular sleep schedule involves going to bed and waking up without an alarm clock every morning, including the weekends. Keeping a regular schedule will make you feel more alert than sleeping the same amount of time but at differing hours across the week and weekend. Benjamin Franklin said “ Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” But in reality it’s better to say “Consistently to rise…” it doesn’t matter when you fall asleep or wake, its duration and regularity that counts.
  3. Get Continuous Sleep.
    For your sleep to be most rejuvenating you should get your required amount of sleep in one continuous block, if sleep is disrupted it will cause you to be drowsy during the day. For example, six hours of continuous sleep is better and more restorative than eight hours of fragmented sleep. Be aware that if you’re not getting good sleep at night and you start dozing off during the day to make up for the loss sleep that it may cause you not to sleep good again that night, causing a vicious cycle that can be hard to break.
  4. Make Up for Lost Sleep
    We are living in a 24 hour society and along with work deadlines, vacations, holidays, and social events it’s a given that our sleep bank accounts will be in debt from time to time. Occasional late nights won’t do much damage, but reducing sleep by one hour every night for seven nights has the same effect as staying awake for 24 consecutive hours once a week. That one hour a night doesn’t seem like much until it’s accumulated over the span of the week. It’s important for us to repay our sleep debt in a timely fashion and make up for our lost sleep as soon as possible. It’s also important to remember that you can’t make up for all your lost sleep at once, it’s the same as eating whatever you want throughout the week and exercising one day that weekend, it just doesn’t work and the same goes for sleep.

Maas, Dr. James B., Megan L. Wherry, David J Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin. Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance. New York : Villard, 1998.

“Sleeping Disorder Statistics.” Statistic Brain. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Dec. 2013. <http://www.statisticbrain.com/sleeping-disorder-statistics/&gt;.

How To Tell If You Are Getting Enough Sleep

Everyone has heard that the ideal amount of sleep is 8 hours every night. The truth is everyone is different. Some people function just fine on as little as 4-5 hours of sleep. On the other hand, there are just as many people out there who sleep 9-10 hours every night. So knowing how much sleep you need as an individual is the most important factor in determining if you are or aren’t getting enough sleep.

How much sleep are you getting now?
The first step is to determine exactly how much sleep you are currently getting. Most people tend to think, “I go to sleep at this time and I wake up at this time, so I got this amount of sleep.” It’s not that simple, as there’s the time it takes you to fall asleep and it also does not count the number of times you wake up or amount of time you were awake before going back to sleep. Once you factor that time in, the 8 hours you thought you got may be more like 6 or 7 hours.

Is it enough sleep for you?
There’s a short test you can take that will determine if you are getting less than your ideal amount of sleep. Ask yourself the following questions; Do I need an alarm clock to wake up at the right time? Do I have trouble getting out of bed every morning? Do I get tired quickly when driving? Do I have trouble remembering things or concentrating? Do I fall asleep as soon as I get in bed? If you answer yes to any of these questions, then you are not getting enough sleep.

Determine if you are getting enough sleep.
On average most people need to get another hour to an hour and a half more sleep than they are currently getting. You can determine this by going to bed around a time you normally can fall asleep that is close to 8 hours before you need to be up. Stick to going to bed around this time and take note of when you wake up. You may wake up early for a few days because you are used to the shorter sleeping schedule, but if you aren’t getting enough sleep, you will begin to sleep longer. Once you start sleeping longer start going to bed 30 minutes earlier for a week, then 15 minutes earlier the next week. Keep adding 15 minutes a week until you are able to wake up when you need to and have energy through the whole day. You can also make sure you have the correct amount of sleep each night by going to bed 15-30 minutes late one night, and see if you feel drowsy the next day, if you do, you know you are getting the right amount of sleep.1

In conclusion
If you are one of the lucky few that are consistently getting the proper sleep they need to make it through the day alert, focused, and in the proper mood, congratulations. Share your suggestions, methods, or tips for how you get the right amount of sleep in the comments.

1. Maas, Dr. James B., Megan L. Wherry, David J Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin. Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance. New York : Villard, 1998.

The Ten Most Common Sleep Myths

Although sleep is something that we all need every day, there are many misconceptions that abound regarding this nightly necessity.  In an effort to help you ensure a thoroughly restful night, we’ve examined the ten most prevalent myths surrounding sleep.

1. Sleep isn’t really that important!  I can get by with just a few hours a night.

Incredibly, this idea remains a popular myth.  In today’s fast-paced society that’s overwhelmed by our desire for instant gratification, people all too often attempt to make up for lost time by cutting into their shut-eye.  The truth is that lack of sleep actually cuts down productivity by causing us to make more mental mistakes the next day.  Your body and brain operate far more efficiently when you get at least the recommended eight hours per night, as sleep is how both recover from our daily activities.  Although the brain does not entirely shut down at night, adequate rest allows it to process the information you took in the previous day.

2. I can wind down at the end of the day by watching TV or browsing the web.

Almost everyone has fallen prey to this belief at one time or other.  I remember that my own favorite way to fall asleep in college was to pop in a movie and wait until I felt drowsy.  The problem with that, as you may imagine, was that I usually ended up watching the whole movie.  It turns out that watching TV or surfing the Internet before bed will disturb your sleep environment and actually makes it more difficult for you to fall asleep.  Furthermore, if you let the television or computer run when you drop off, the ambient light and sound they create will interrupt your sleep cycle because your brain remains unconsciously aware of its surroundings, preventing you from acquiring the deep sleep you need at night.

3. Snoring is a normal thing some sleepers do.

For years, it was a generally-accepted belief that snoring was just a normal part of sleep for certain people.  Many people still believe that notion because the discovery that snoring is actually hard on the body was only made in the last half-century.  In fact, snoring only occurs when there is a narrowing, or constriction, of the air passages.  Such constriction will cause the soft,  “floppy” tissue in the back of your throat to vibrate, and create the [sometimes very noisy] snoring sound.  Snoring has been proven to be difficult on the heart [causing high blood pressure], and serious cases may lead to a diagnosis of sleep apnea, which can actually be fatal.

4. Naps don’t help if you’re sleepy.

I actually used to believe this one myself for a long time, and I avoided taking naps because I felt they only teased my appetite for sleep enough to make me grumpy when I woke up.  The truth of the matter, however, is that naps are a very good way to catch up on lost sleep: studies have shown that people perform cognitive tasks better after napping for one hour or more.  Be sure to time them properly, though, as taking a nap for longer than three hours or past three o’clock in the afternoon can make it difficult to fall asleep that night.

5. A lack of sleep during the week can be made up over the weekend.

This common sleep myth is possibly one of the worst habits to form, as sleeping long hours on the weekend while cutting down on them through the week can throw your body’s biological clock all out of whack.  Trying to catch up on your rest over the weekend will not actually reduce fatigue during the week either, and can lead to costly mistakes at work.

6. Getting just an hour less of sleep at night will not have any effect on daytime functioning.

This lack of sleep may not make you noticeably sleepy during the day, but even slightly less sleep than you’re used to can affect your ability to think properly and respond quickly, and it can even compromise your cardiovascular health and energy balance as well as your body’s ability to fight infections– particularly if the lack of sleep continues.  If you’re consistently not getting enough sleep, a sleep debt will eventually build up that will indeed make you excessively tired during the day.

7. Your body can quickly adjust to different sleep schedules.

In fact, your biological clock makes you naturally most alert during the daytime and drowsy as night falls.  Thus, even if you work the night shift, you’ll simply automatically feel sleepy when nighttime comes.  Most people do have the ability to “reset” their biological clock, but only with appropriately-timed cues, and even then, by just one to two hours per day at best.  It can take more than a week, therefore, for you to adjust to a dramatically altered sleep/wake cycle, such as that you’d encounter when traveling across several time zones or switching from first shift at work to third.

8. Sleep is a time when your body and brain shut down for rest and relaxation.

No evidence whatsoever exists to prove that any major organ [including the brain] or regulatory system in the body shuts down completely when you sleep.  Interestingly enough, certain physiological processes actually become more active while you sleep.  For example, your body’s secretion of particular hormones is accelerated when you rest, and the activity of the pathways in your brain needed for learning and memory is heightened.

9. Children who don’t get enough sleep at night will show signs of sleepiness during the day.

Unlike adults, children who don’t get enough sleep at night actually become more active, on average, than normal during the following day.  They may also show difficulty in both paying attention and behaving properly, so these children may be consequently misdiagnosed as having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder [ADHD].

10. The main cause of insomnia is worry.

Although worry or stress may lead to a brief bout of insomnia, a persistent inability to fall asleep [or stay asleep] at night can be caused by a number of other factors.  Taking certain medications or suffering from a sleep disorder can easily keep you awake at night.  Other common causes of insomnia include depression, anxiety, asthma, arthritis, or a number of other medical conditions with symptoms which become more troublesome at night.

American Medical Network. Top 10 Sleep Myths. http://sleep.health.am/sleep/more/top-10-sleep-myths/. Retrieved 06.15.09.

National Institute of Mental Health. “Power Nap” Prevents Burnout; Morning Sleep Perfects a Skill.http://www.nimh.nih.gov/science-news/2002/power-nap-prevents-burnout-morning-sleep-perfects-a-skill.shtml. Retrieved 09.15.09